'A tremendous, inspirational performer'
Alexis Dubus on his comedy faves
Vic And Bob: The Weekenders
I only recently discovered this little gem from 20 years ago, despite being a massive Reeves and Mortimer fan. It's such a shame this pilot episode never extended to a series.
A sublime mixture of the mundane and the surreal, subtle and unsubtle gags, with some notable cameos. It was also a bit of a blueprint for their equally bizarre and wonderful series Catterick. While I can understand why the BBC stuck with the safer format of Shooting Stars for so long, Vic and Bob have always truly excelled when creating a wider world for themselves.
Bruce Dessau's biography of the pair is well worth a read, detailing their formative years and revealing the painstaking detail they will go to when creating their extraordinary nonsense. As someone raised on Monty Python, Reeves and Mortimer's shows were the first since the Flying Circus to really capture my heart, and I still find them pretty hard to beat.
Justin Edwards as Jeremy Lions: Twelve Days Of Christmas
This was the finale to what remains one of my favourite Edinburgh shows ever: Jeremy Lions's Happy Christmas. Put a grown man in an ill-fitting children's entertainer costume, stick him in a metal container at 2pm every day, add more booze than the average rock band's rider and some of the best costumes ever seen in a Fringe show, and funny is what you get.
What's more, as part of The Consultants, Justin had to perform a slick, wordy sketch show just hours later, every day for a whole month. Most comics think they're wrecked by the end of Edinburgh, but in 2003 this man was the epitome of the word.
He's a tremendous, inspirational performer, from his ingenious songs to his appearances on shows such as The Thick Of It, and Jeremy Lion deserves Partridge levels of renown.
Kevin Eldon: Look Around You
I could have chosen any number of Kevin Eldon clips, but this one has occupied a special place in my mind ever since it was aired on the hilarious Look Around You, a rare example of a comedy show mining nostalgia perfectly while still having its own unique feel, due in part to Peter Serafinowicz's midas touch.
It's crazy that Eldon's only just getting his own series, having shone in pretty much every other show he's been a part of. Our school lunchtimes were often occupied by listening to the previous night's Fist Of Fun that someone had recorded off Radio 1, and a similar bonding occurred at university with Blue Jam.
Even with Eldon's superbly comedic features, his performances are just as powerful and nuanced on radio as they were in something like Big Train, where his and Mark Heap's physicality provided some of sketch comedy's most delightful moments.
Borat: This Is Cheese (deleted scene)
You can see why this was left out of the main film, it really needs to be enjoyed in its entirety. Even if the shop attendant knows it's a wind-up he's clearly given up the will to live long before the man from Kazakhstan arrived.
The tenacity of Sacha Baron Cohen is astounding, and this is what makes his characters so compelling and yet so difficult to watch. I love being in a packed cinema watching a film that delights and confounds the audience - Being John Malkovich, Four Lions, Napoleon Dynamite etc. But I've never heard such loud belly laughs from a cinema crowd as when watching Borat.
Co-writer Peter Baynham deserves a mention too, and you can spot his influence in several scenes. In Fist Of Fun his ability to tread the line between the obscene and the strangely loveable was remarkable.
TV Go Home
Charlie Brooker's savage, surreal and scathing Radio Times spoof in book form, which has recently been re-issued. As a website, it appeared around the same time as other intelligently puerile sites like disappointment.com, bubblegun.com and the still-magnificent b3ta.com, which is responsible for a horrendous amount of lost working hours for me every week.
TVGoHome spawned the TV series Nathan Barley (originally called, more succinctly, Cunt) and some of its listings were re-created in actual TV form. But, while the sketches often worked brilliantly on the box, some listings are best just left to the imagination, such as Aquatextile Savegoose Challenge, Congratulations It's A Horse and Honey, I Browndicked An Acrobat.
It was great to see Tim Key appearing on Brooker's Screenwipe. His books rank alongside TVGoHome, in terms of a convenient, satisfying laughter fix regardless of what page I turn to.
Sean Lock: 15 Storeys High
Easily ranking up there with The Office and I'm Alan Partridge, it's tragic that this smart, quirky, deadpan sitcom never achieved the wide audience it deserved.
Sean Lock is one of the comedians that made me want to get into comedy in the first place, and like his stand-up, the series was down-to-earth but never far from a surreal tangent. The scheduling didn't help, but maybe its subtlety was also its downfall, in terms of mainstream appeal.
The wonderfully awkward set-pieces rarely descend into farce or full-on cringe comedy, and at times it's more of a drama piece, with a surprising level of pathos. The cutaway shots into neighbouring flats provide some of the most memorable moments, from characters we see fleetingly and then never again and, like all the best comedies, you find yourself batting for the underdog, be that Vince or Errol, or both.
The end to the second and sadly final series was set up with all the makings of a big finale, and given a brilliant twist, as if to say, ‘Sorry, that's all your getting.’ If you don't own the DVD add it to your wish-list.
Posted: 11 Aug 2012